Rays part owner victimized in Internet hacking scheme


A member of the Tampa Bay Rays ownership group was the victim of an Internet hacking scheme originating in Nigeria that led to the theft of nearly $40,000 and the subsequent arrest of a couple in Texas, police said.

Randy Frankel, one of 18 investors in the team, told St. Petersburg police in February of an issue with an email from his assistantís AOL account to a Rays email account containing instructions to Wells Fargo Bank for payment of a dividend from a common private investment account.

Investigation by the economic crimes unit found that the $38,326.26 was instead routed ó through an Internet fraud called "whaling" ó to a Bank of America account for Madoussou Odebode, a Houston area woman.

St. Petersburg police notified Harris County Sheriffs, and through surveillance video they found Odebode, and her husband, Oluwatomiwa, withdrawing some of the money in the form of cashierís checks and depositing it into another personal account.

The Odebodes, of Nigeria, were arrested last week and charged with third-degree felony theft, and bonded out of jail with court appearances forthcoming in January.

Frankel, 60, is an original member of the Stuart Sternberg-led ownership group that took over the team in 2005, and a former partner, with Sternberg, on Wall Street at the Speer, Leeds & Kellog. Frankel has homes in Miami Beach and New Jersey.

Also, former Rays catcher Curt Casali signed a minor-league deal with the Angels.